United pulls out of Venezuela amidst economic turmoil
After years of violence and unrest, United Airlines announced that it will suspend service to and from Venezuela.
United will continue operating daily flights between Caracas and Houston until July 1.
The airline told Reuters it was halting flights due to their low-occupancy rates and their inability to “[meet] financial expectation.”
Venezuela has been battling economic and political conflict since 2014, and kidnappings are frequent. As a result, overall trips to Venezuela originating in the United States dropped by more than 7 percent in 2016.
The government in Caracas has been increasingly plagued by anti-government protests for the past two months. As international monetary reserves reach a 15-year low, the government has cut imports of food and medicine (about 50 percent last year alone) to pay bondholders.
The protests over food shortages have caused at least 64 deaths since April.
Since 2014, multiple airlines like Air Canada and Lufthansa have pulled out of Venezuela. Delta, Latam Airlines, and AeroMexico have all cut flights from their major markets.
It is rumored that many of the airlines withdrew from Venezuela because the government failed to pay them. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that Venezuelan authorities owe more than $3.8 billion to international airlines.
"The industry is trying to be sympathetic,” an IATA spokesperson said at a meeting in Mexico over the weekend. “The airlines don't want to pull out of Venezuela, but we are getting to a point where airlines need to take business decisions.”